Sebastian - Basic Obedience - Up A Notch!

Sebastian at 5 1/2 months
Sebastian at 5½ months
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Basic Obedience Class gave us a great foundation. Given his age and independent mindedness, we are repeating the class with special attention on specific tasks. The structure of class is wonderful for continually working with Sebastian.

Below are my "Puppy-Logues" from Basic Obedience - Up A Notch

First Day at Basic Obedience Class - November 4, 2004
It seems that some of Sebastian's wildness last week was ramminess prior to a growth spurt. He's now 26" at the shoulder. I noticed that type of cause and effect earlier in his puppyhood, when he was literally growing before my eyes. I call it his "running with scissors" mode (ala Frasier from "Cheers" running around the bar with scissors, manic look on his face, screaming "I'm running with scissors!" - same look).

He's considerably calmed from last week, and walking decently on the leash. For the first time on Monday I saw him make the decision to turn on the charm the way that Wolf always did. We were checking out at the pet store and the woman at the counter was fawning over him, he sat his butt down, gave a little tail wag and looked up at her with a saccarine sweet Mal smile. Needless to say, she was smitten :)
He was perfect at the pet store, and close enough to perfect for now at Mailboxes Etc, which was filled with people, copiers going, people walking this way and that. Yes!

I switched treats for sit/stay, down/stay and "place" to apples prior to class. He loves them and it worked. I'm also going to try carrots, and just switch up on the treats to keep his motivation level up.

When we got to class there was a pretty 11 month old Golden Retriever there just dying to play. They are equal in size, so they both rolled each other well and got up for more. Off-leash time was a riot for them, and the others that followed joined in the off-leash play. What terrific fun they had.

There are several Labs, a beagle, a dauchsund, a spaniel, a poodle and and the Golden in the class.

We said good-bye to his puppy collar, which saw the last of being extended and got his big-boy leather Coachdog collar. Same type collar that Taylor had and it lasted. We also had to say good-bye to his gentle-leader, only to say hello to the new large gentle-leader. The old one couldn't be let out any farther and it had just begun to leave indentation marks on his face.

After we got his new gentle-leader on we were ready to do the class exercizes. He did great walking. There are two of us in class that are getting specialized tasks to work on, so I can't compare how he's doing to those first starting out, only to his own improvement.

While we were watching when others were up, I worked with him to focus on me in sit/stay with the apple bits, he did great at that. When it was our turn up for a little walking and a sit/stay, he did great at the walking and was a brat for the sit/stay. Sharon came over, told him to sit and he did. She said he's "flipping me off", because she watched him doing the sit/stay with me earlier. That was it for my flip-off for the night. :)

Everyone was arranged on the floor and had to have their dogs in a sit/stay and Sebastian was up to walk around and in-between them. He did great walking and listening to "leave-it" to ignore the other dogs. After the others got the hang of working on focusing their dogs, they did the weaving. Sebastian was terrific doing a sit/stay and focusing on me, the apple bits are quite inviting and he made terrific eye contact.

Then we worked on "wait" (a short "stay"). We volunteered to go first, walked to the door, did a "sit", then a "wait" until I opened the door and went through first. He did it perfectly on the third try. While the others had their turn, we worked on sit/stay focusing on me, and he was terrific.

While folks were getting ready to leave, the beagle's mom asked if it was ok to give Sebastian a treat. I'd had my back turned talking to Jen and when I turned to look as I said, "as long as he does something for it", he was already sitting looking up at her with the charm turned on. She wanted to know what he does. I told her to tell him "down" and motion to the floor. She did, but he didn't, but kept a sit. I told her to lower her voice, and put her hand on the floor as she said it. Down he went, he saw that huge treat she had :)

Our task for the week is to work on walking, and sit/stay during the walks. We have to get sharper with that. He does it better for me at home than at class, but we'll work on that.

The agility tunnel came yesterday, of course it was raining all day. I'll get that setup for him and he'll have even more fun with "his outside". The giant crate better get here soon, he's bumping his back on the way out of the large one :)

Earlier in the week photos, show his growth:

Sebastian outgrowing his crate   Sebastian playing

2nd Day at Basic Obedience Class - November 11, 2004

Great walking with Sebastian during the week, with good compliance on sit/stay while walking. Great fun for Sebastian with his new tunnel. I've got to glue the pvc braces, because he takes them apart and has them strewn all over the yard. The tunnel is always someplace different (looks like a big slinky). Of course, Saturday was the best day because it was windy. Nothing like looking out the window watching a tunnel roll past with a dog in mad pursuit. Then seeing it fly the other way, still hotly pursued. Duct tape, I believe will be the key to saving the tunnel, as the exterior decorator keeps moving the thing around and has more than left his marks on it.

The first thing he does when he goes out is fly thru the tunnel (unless one end is heading into the ground at that point). Then he's about his business. He's also going thru the tunnel on command.

He spent Tuesday at day-care, which was great because he got to play with the other canine kids. Got a weight on him while there, he's 75 lbs. I think this will be a weekly thing for him to continue his socialization skills.

Had to go to the pet store because he destroyed his outside waterjug. Some of the water was frozen Wednesday morning and he dumped the jug off of the bowl and it broke and then he got to work shredding it. I've got a new one out there with bungee cords around it attaching it to the deck.

He did help himself to a 'treat' from the 'self-feeders' at the petstore. A customer saw him and said "good boy" :) Mostly he was good, at the checkout he started barking at the soda machine, but when I looked, the sun was shining in and hitting just right so he was barking at his reflection in the soda machine. He is a love bug, an older woman wanted to pet him if he was friendly and when I said yes, he sat down, and leaned into her and she was in love. Our next stop at Mailboxes, he was a love bug with Shawn but sat when I told him to, then the next thing he's down on the floor giving Shawn his belly, so I issued the "suck up" command, just as he started doing it. Shawn wanted to know if he was really trained to do that on that command and I laughed and said no, my timing just happened to be right in issuing it.

We were missing some in class and had a young collie join the class.

We were last up for walking and he did great both walking and in his sit/stays. Next was sit/stays for time with distractions - all doing them at once. His performance was acceptable, especially since while we waited for our walking he was doing sit/stays for me at the back of the class and really focusing on me (Macintosh apple treats certainly help). Then, again with all the distractions of everyone working at the same time, down/stays. He's getting better at 'Down' in class, more like how he complies at home.

The finale was individual sit/stays for time. He was good for me while the others were up, some distractions with a lab puppy that I believe he knows from daycare, and some of the human kids were a tad distracting, but all in all, I'm pleased with his improved focus.

We were last up for sit/stay. When his focus wandered a bit, I moved the apple treat back into his field of vision and kept talking to him. I didn't think about the clock, but just talked to him and moved the treat around so he kept his eyes on it. Next thing I know, Sharon said, "Call him - over a minute! - good job" Way too cool!!!

Our task this week is to work on down/stays and continue our walking success.

I also asked about bells for the door for him. I'd heard people talk about training their dogs to ring the bell to go out and to come in. Sebastian is silent about wanting to go out or come in. He just looks out or in the door when he's ready. I can't hear his look and that's when he has the occasional accident inside. Sharon said to train by taking his paw, swipe against the bells while saying outside and then open the door. Got to find the bells and then start that training.

His giant crate finally arrived yesterday. We'll get that put together this weekend (I'm sure I'll have canine help). The thing is so stinking big I'm going to have to rearrange the whole family room :)

Earlier in the week photos, show his growth:

Sebastian enjoying the outside   Sebastian considering the placement of the tunnel

3rd Basic Obedience Class - November 18, 2004

We had a good week with walking, sit/stay and down/stay. Quick vet visit Friday for mild conjunctivitis in his eyes. Got some antibiotics & eye drops. While waiting for the vet, he did a 5 minute sit/stay - I was amazed. He was great with Dr. Nichol, very well mannered and obedient. Scheduled his neuter surgery for mid-December while there. Family room rearranged to accomodate his giant crate. He had no problems with the crate (had to rearrange things inside it of course, I didn't have the toys where they belonged), but barked at the sofa table in its new place. Mild success with him ringing the bells to go out, mostly he goes to the door and looks out (and I still can't hear him looking!). We'll keep working on that. He's been good on trips with me to do my errands. Quick vet phone call this week because he's been congested since Wednesday morning. The nearby farms spread manure (good old fall aroma) Wednesday and that's when the issue started. He's on Benadryl. I think he must be sensitive to the manure, as he clears up inside, but gets stuffed up again outside. Followup phone call this afternoon if its not cleared up.

We were first up for walking in class last night and he did great, walking with sit/stays. We concentrated on down/stays this week, but he wouldn't do one for anything. He did 45 seconds on a sit/stay.

Then musical chairs, walking around the chairs with both owners and dogs sitting when Jen called out "sit". Had to do it in 10 seconds, then 5. We did great until the 2nd 5 second attempt because the woman in front of us didn't go to the next chair and by the time we got to the chair it was too late, so we were "out of the game" :) Not his fault, I was very pleased with his performance there.

Jen wanted Sebastian to demonstrate "place", as he's good at it. You just know you're in trouble, when you're going to do something you're good at :) He wouldn't even look at me, but just kept looking at her. We realized he was more interested in her liver treats, than my apple treats. Got a liver treat from her and he was then focused on me and very ably demonstrated "place" for everyone. We're going to check out these liver treats!

Our task these next two weeks is to continue working on down/stays and continue our walking success.

Earlier in the week photos, show his growth:

Sebastian fetching   Sebastian sitting

4th Basic Obedience Class - December 2, 2004

Sebastian is doing very well walking, with sit/stay, down/stay, place & tunnel, and accompanying me on errands. The exceptions are during teething bouts & growth spurts where he's a hyper-brat.

His Malamute sense of humor is also emerging. He gets inches from doing something wrong, looks at me with eyes twinkling & tail wagging as if to say "you know I could do it, but I won't"

A few weeks back he learned how to lift his leg during his Tuesday day care. Evidently he was proud of what he learned. He was trying to get my attention in the family room and when I looked at him, he swaggered to the sofa & lifted his leg on it. His pride went out the door along with him when I yelled "no". He swaggered around outside for a few days lifting his leg, but hasn't repeated that 'oops' inside again. The swagger is gone, as it's now common place for him :)

He's a good sport with play, either with tennis ball catch, or keep away soccer. He knows he's not to jump on me, so he's modified that during play to run straight at me and leap so that his nose nicks my shoulder and then run away and do it again. Still "counting coup" :)

He did well with sit/stay, down/stay & place in class last night, although he was consistent at 55 seconds on every sit/stay & down/stay and not going the full minute. B-r-a-t . He now "bounds" for place and did that in class.

He demonstrated "tunnel" for all the others in class. He goes through the tunnel either on voice command or me tapping the end of the tunnel. He couldn't get enough last night & when class was officially over got several of the others interested in going in and out of it on their own.

Earlier in the week photos:

Sebastian fetching   Sebastian sitting

5th Basic Obedience Class - December 9, 2004

We've been waving to Noah as the ark's been floating past, although we did have a couple sunny days in the past week.

We had our first enjoyable 2 mile walk on Monday, one of the sunny days, and extremely close to the speed I enjoy. Quite a milestone.

We've combined sit/stay with tunnel ending with place, and down/stay ending in place. Keep away soccer continues to evolve as a nice game for both of us, with Sebastian continuing to be a good sport.

He's been great accompanying me on errands, although I have to encourage people we see to expect good behavior from him. If he senses they will allow it, he jumps on them. They don't want to be the one to tell him "off", but I ask them if they think it will be cute when he's got another 50 lbs on him. I think the "human factor" will continue to be a challenge :)

They love him at the UPS Store - "how's the wolf today?" is what several of them always say or if I'm solo - "where's the wolf?".

He's also improving greatly on "sit" whenever we approach a door and we're working on "wait" so that I open it and go through first. Progress every day is encouraging.

Sebastian's behavior with the cats is now a blessing. He approaches them slowly or goes into his crate and comes out very slowly toward them, sits and stays on my hand signal and just watches them from a few feet away. It's now up to them to get comfortable and not run, which 50% of the time initiates "chase" in him, which gets him in trouble. I'm very proud of him for reaching this level of maturity with them.

His growth seems to be in length and a little bit in mass this week.

For as much as he loves water, yesterday he surprisingly didn't want to be outside in the drizzle much. The result being pent-up energy brattiness.

For class last night, he started out bratty, until it was his turn for walk and sit/stay. Nailed it, even with walking around several other dogs always heeding the "leave it" command.

Much of the others in class were unfocused and it was a challenge to keep Sebastian's attention on me and not get involved in the play that was going on around him. Good learning experience, but quite frustrating for me because we're there to work. I did hear from the background, "poor Sebastian, not allowed to play", which made it more frustrating as not all were there to work evidently.

Then we did "meet and greet". Two of us had to approach each other, put the dogs in a sit/stay, shake hands chat and keep them in a sit/stay. He nailed it both turns.

The down/stay. WOW! Over a minute and laid there in an alert position focusing on me. His pose was good enough for Sharon to snap his graduation photo. He barely moved a muscle until I gave him the release "ok".

The finale was his bounding perfect "place". Just great!

To reward him I asked Sharon after class was officially over if I could roll out the tunnel for him to run through. She gave her blessing and he excitedly helped me roll it out and started going through even before I had it extended. We showed off our tunnel on voice command with the combined sit/stay or down/stay finished up with place. Sharon said she is very proud of him. Her nickname for him is "lovebug" :)

Next week is graduation and in March we start agility training.

Photos from the weekend:

Sebastian ready to play   Sebastian tunneling

6th Basic Obedience Class - Graduation - December 16, 2004

Took the big boy to the vet Sunday afternoon for an overnight stay in preparation for Monday's neutering surgery. We put our training into practice while waiting and for getting on the scale. He sat for me while on the scale and is now 90 lbs (7 months old today).

I picked him up Monday night and he was still a bit groggy. He's doing better dealing with the cone collar than I am. He keeps bumping into me with it. He's creatively used the cone to ring the bells to go out, and to roll his crazy ball around.

Took him to day care both Wednesday and Thursday. Because he just had surgery they're walking him instead of him getting his group play time. I think not getting to play with his buddies really frustrated him and also resulted in major pent up energy.

We headed up to class and I asked him for a sit in front of the door and he was much more interested in Sunny, the lab who was behind us. Since I asked it of him, he had to do it and I kept at him until he did it. Sunny's mom said, "Sunny's listening to you". Guess I was really barking at him, trying to focus him, and Sunny didn't want me barking orders at her :)

Walked him around upstairs before class to settle him, but Yukon Sam the Wild Man popped up instead jumping on me. I ran him around the room, then walked and put him in a sit/stay then down stay, but he was still hyper-rammy.

We watched several of the others go through their paces, with major improvement for some. They've really been working with their dogs. He was off and on with his ramminess during this.

Then our turn. I don't know where my sweet Sebastian was, but Yukon Sam sure was present. I got really tough with him and he just flipped me off big time. Sharon took him with the same result. We took a break to have our turn later and Sharon took him outside to "have a talk with him". When she got back he was a bit better, but then worse jumping on me while others were up for their turn. Everytime someone called "place" he wanted to run. I got him in a down and stepped on his leash, giving him only a couple inches of it so that he couldn't get up. He fought that pretty well and even flipped himself over (almost upending me, but I didn't let him know that). He started to settle more and more and I just stood on the leash giving him very little room to move for about 20 minutes while others were going. I knew I had to dominate him, and that seemed like my only option, since his crate wasn't there for a time-out.

The others all had their turn, and then it was our turn again. We started to walk and Yukon Sam tried to come back. So instead of walking, I put him in a sit/stay and dropped the leash and went to the other of the room and called place. He bounded to me on that and did it perfectly. I immediately put him in a down stay, went to the other end and called place. Perfect again. Then just a sit/stay. He did over a minute. Then we did another place and a down/stay for over a minute with some verbal corrections when I thought he was thinking of popping up. Whew, what a night!

Not exactly the way I wanted us to cross the finish line, but we did get there. We'll get our certificate in a few weeks.

Once in the car and I got his safety harness on him, I didn't hear a peep from him. When we got home, he went out for a bit and then crashed in his crate.

We did have some sad news about his buddy Boomer, the lab (you may remember her from Puppy Kindergarten and our first run through Obedience class). She's got major hip problems (she's about 9 months old), that are going to result in thousands of dollars in treatment at University of Pennsylvania Veterinary. When I asked if they got her from a local breeder, Jen said in Lancaster and Sharon said that's puppy-mill country, not just for labs but for several other breeds as well. What a hideous lesson on why not to buy a pup from a puppy-mill breeder or pet shop (they buy from the puppy mills). They over breed and do not care what defects they're breeding, or the health of the pups at all, and obviously do not give health guarentees like a responsible breeder does. Sharon said she's seen some of these places and the dogs are kept in very small cages, so you're also going to get temperament issues along with health issues. It does cost more initially to get a pup from a responsible breeder interested in bettering the breed, but then you don't go through what Boomer's going through. My heart just breaks for Boomer's mom and dad, because they love her so much.

"Conehead" photos from earlier in the week:

Sebastian - conehead   Sebastian - Conehead with bone

PostScript: Sebastian's wildness continued for 2 days, and then he grew more. Another growth spurt, and I should've had that figured out, since it always happens that way. Wildness, growth spurt and then sweet Sebastian is back :)
On his final day of wildness, he left his destroyed cone collar for me to find at the back door.

Sebastian - looking for more to do

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